Category Archives: textadventures.co.uk Website

Meet the new textadventures.co.uk team

I announced last month that I was handing over textadventures.co.uk and Quest. Many thanks to everybody who got in touch to volunteer to help. I was really pleased that so many people want to see these projects continue into the future. I am now happy to announce that we have a new team in place!

Luis Felipe Morales will be taking over the textadventures.co.uk and ActiveLit websites, and also Squiffy. A programmer since the 1980s, Luis has been involved with the Spanish interactive fiction community since he was young. He has maintained and created several internet portals and now works as a freelancer.

Jay Nabonne and Andy a.k.a The Pixie will be taking over development of Quest. Both have been very active members of the forums for a long time. Jay is a lifelong programmer and game player who is interested in not only creating games but helping others to do the same. A California native, he now lives with his wife in the UK. Andy has been playing and creating text adventure games since the Eighties, has been using Quest for over five years and has written various guides and libraries for the system.

Greg Fenton and Nathan Clive Gerard will each be running servers for Quest’s WebPlayer and WebEditor. Greg is a developer who wrote his first text adventure in dBase III on an IBM PC back in the very late 1980s shortly after leaving high school. Nathan is a regular player of text adventures from the UK (currently living in the USA), who spends his days setting up and looking after web servers in the cloud.

I’ll be working with each of them over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition. Please welcome them aboard!

Developers needed for textadventures.co.uk and Quest

This is a follow up to Looking for a new owner for textadventures.co.uk and Quest.

Thanks to all of you who have got in touch so far. A lot of people have asked about what would be involved in taking over and running textadventures.co.uk and/or Quest, so this post is to go into a bit more detail about how things are set up and how the work might be split up across different people.

For a smooth transition, I need to find people to fill these four roles:

  • One or more .NET web developers for textadventures.co.uk and/or ActiveLit, familiar with Azure and ASP.NET MVC and with front-end development using JavaScript and Bootstrap.
  • One or more JavaScript developers for Quest 6, Squiffy and/or QuestKit. Ideally familiar with back-end and front-end web development, and desktop development using Electron.
  • One or more .NET developers familiar with both desktop and web development for Quest 5. Ideally familiar with both C# and VB.NET.
  • A server admin to keep the current browser version of Quest alive (both the Player and the Editor). Needs to know how to run a Windows server. This is currently running on a VPS at OVH. (This is just for the online player and editor – running textadventures.co.uk itself will require a developer familiar with Azure. Eventually if both the Quest Player and Editor are rewritten to use JavaScript, the server admin role becomes redundant).

Of course any of these roles can be combined – after all, they’ve all been done by me up until now.

textadventures.co.uk and ActiveLit sites

textadventures.co.uk and ActiveLit run on the Azure App Service (formerly known as Azure Websites). Data is stored in Azure SQL and in Azure blob and table storage.

The web-accessible blobs (for game downloads, cover art etc.) are behind a Cloudflare CDN.

The code uses C# and ASP.NET MVC. The front-end uses Bootstrap, JQuery and a little bit of React.

ActiveLit runs alongside textadventures.co.uk on the same Azure infrastructure and talks to the same database.

Quest 5 & 6

There are two parts to Quest – the Player and the Editor. There are also two ways of using Quest – via the web, and via a downloadable Windows desktop application.

The current version is Quest 5, and I also made a start on Quest 6 which is architected quite differently. The new version rewrites the Player back-end to use JavaScript, which means the web version requires no server component (making it much faster, infinitely scalable, distributable on any website, and an end to time-outs while playing), and the desktop version will be cross-platform for the first time (packaged using Electron for Windows, Mac and Linux).

To take on Quest 6, I’m looking for a developer who has experience using the modern JavaScript ecosystem (npm, TypeScript, gulp, webpack and all of that kind of thing). I will work with this person to help get Quest 6 shipped. (It doesn’t make sense for me to continue working on this project without somebody to hand it over to, because it will of course need to be maintained after it is shipped). Quest 6 lives in the v6 branch on GitHub.

After Quest 6 is shipped, rewriting the Editor to use JavaScript would also be really useful. That would be a project for the new Quest 6 maintainer, or maybe even someone else. If Quest could be taken to the point where both the Player and the Editor were shipping as 100% JavaScript applications, that would be a massive simplification of the Quest architecture.

Quest’s long-term future lies with Quest 6, but it would be good if we can find somebody to maintain Quest 5 for the time being, not least because even if/when Quest 6 ships, it will still be using the same .NET-based Editor that Quest 5 uses.

I’ve updated the Developers documentation page on the Quest docs site to describe how the various projects that make up Quest 5 together. It is not an easy thing to pick up – there’s a lot of code there, and a mixture of languages and technologies reflecting my changing tastes and experience over time. It’s stable though, and it shouldn’t require big changes because if the Player and Editor both get rewritten using JavaScript then all of it will become obsolete.

Proposals

If you’re interested in taking on one or more of these roles, please email me at alex@textadventures.co.uk.

To reiterate, I am not looking for money. I want to hand these over to somebody (or a group of people) with a passion for IF and a vision for where these products could go in the future. That vision doesn’t necessarily have to agree with my vision (that’s what stepping back is about) – this is a massive opportunity for somebody to take over running a popular website and IF development system. textadventures.co.uk is the place people come when they search for text adventures on the web, so it’s a big gateway to the world of interactive fiction. Taking on the website doesn’t have to be about taking on Quest.

I’ve only got Alexa rankings to prove it (so take them with a pinch of salt) but the site appears to be bigger than other IF sites like IFDB, intfiction.org and Choice of Games. It’s how a lot of people start out making text adventures – in fact, it’s introduced a lot of people to programming in the first place. It’s used by schools to get children into coding and creative writing.

Thanks again for responses so far. If you can’t help out yourself, please help spread the word to somebody who might be able to take this on and ensure it has a future.

Looking for a new owner for textadventures.co.uk and Quest

I have been developing Quest and textadventures.co.uk for a long time. It started off as a summer coding project when I was a teenager and wanted to send stupid text adventure games to a friend. Over the last couple of decades it has turned into something far bigger than I could have imagined.

It has alternated between hobby and full-time job, and tinkering with it all these years has taught me huge amounts about writing software, helping turn me into the developer that I am today.

I’m proud of what I’ve built – various open source projects that have enabled hundreds of thousands of people to build games for the first time, and a website that has become the top hit on Google for “text adventures” and attracts 3,500 users per day, a number which continues to increase.

The software and community around it are in great shape, and I think they have a great future. But the time has come for somebody else to take charge – I want to focus my energy on new projects, and hand over what I’ve built to somebody else who has the passion to drive things forward.

I am looking for people interested in taking this on. There are quite a lot of different bits, and these wouldn’t all necessarily need to go to the same person or company – things could be split up if that looks like the best option. I am open to all suggestions and proposals – my main concern above all else is finding the best home (or homes) for the long-term future for these projects. I am not looking for money and I’m happy to do everything I can to ensure a smooth handover.

If you’re interested, please email me at alex@textadventures.co.uk.

What if new owners can’t be found?

I really hope that people from the interactive fiction community will want to see Quest and textadventures.co.uk continue, so if you can possibly help then please get in touch. Do you want to keep textadventures.co.uk alive for the community that loves it? Could you take it forward to bigger and better things?

If no suitable new owners come forward by 28th February 2017, then sadly I will have to start the process of shutting down the website and forums. Initially they will become read-only, and I will look to export the data elsewhere (the IF Archive or the Internet Archive) before closing the sites completely.

Quest and Squiffy will remain accessible on GitHub but there will be no further updates. The software will still be able to be downloaded for offline use, but the online web-based versions would no longer be available. The GitHub repositories themselves would probably be transferred to the IFTF.

The different bits

  • Quest
  • Squiffy
  • QuestKit
  • textadventures.co.uk:
    • The site itself, where people can upload games (not just Quest and Squiffy games, but Inklewriter, Twine and Inform games too) and post reviews and comments
    • The forums
    • Online player and editor for Quest games
    • Online editor for Squiffy
  • ActiveLit
  • Social media accounts:
  • Various domain names:
    • textadventures.co.uk
    • textadventures.uk
    • textadventures.co
    • textadventures.net
    • textadventur.es
    • textadventure.co.uk
    • activelit.com
    • activelit.co.uk

Some numbers

textadventures.co.uk according to Google Analytics:

  • ~3,500 unique visitors/day
  • 83,986 unique visitors in November 2016 (a 14% increase on November 2015)
  • 428,119 page views in November 2016 (18% increase on November 2015)
  • Average session duration 03m 41s
  • 66% of sessions are from new users, 34% returning

Users:

  • 161,203 registered users (115,038 with confirmed email addresses)
  • In November 2016, new sign-ups from 4,746 users (3,190 with confirmed email addresses)

Games:

  • 13,582 games (8,216 are public) of which:
    • Quest games: 9,892
    • HTML (Twine, Squiffy etc.) and Inform games: 1,621
    • Inklewriter games: 1,321
    • External links (game listings from IFDB, Choice of Games etc): 757
  • In November 2016, 394 new games (136 are public)
  • 8,317 reviews and 13,414 comments
  • In November 2016, 197 new reviews and 336 new comments
  • 94,575 games started in Quest’s online editor

Social Media:

  • @TextAdv on Twitter: 921 followers
  • textadventures on Facebook: 1076 likes

Income and Expenses:

AdSense earns about £50/month for the limited advertising which is currently on the site.

The main costs are for Azure at ~£70/month, and the VPS (hosted by OVH) which runs the Quest online player and editor at £13.59/month ex VAT.

(On Azure, I’ve been getting a £65/month free credit, so the actual amount billed averages only about £5. This means the total cost for running the site has been about £20/month, which has been entirely offset from the Adsense income.)

Inform hosting on textadventures.co.uk

You can now upload games created with Inform directly to textadventures.co.uk.

Previously, you could upload an HTML game created using Inform’s “Release along with an interpreter” option, but now it’s even easier – you can now upload a .z5, .z8, .ulx, .zblorb or .gblorb file directly.

Just head to the “Submit a Game” link and submit your file. After uploading the file, enter a few basic details and hit Publish. That’s it! Your game’s listing page is created, where it can be played online (using Parchment) or downloaded.

When publishing a game, you can also choose to keep your game unlisted, which means only people you give the link to will have access.

If you upload a blorb file that includes cover art, that will be automatically added to your game listing.

More game listings, and an interactive fiction calendar

A couple of months ago, we started accepting more game listings on textadventures.co.uk, opening the site up to allow all kinds of web-browser games, such as those created using Twine, Inform or Undum.

We’ve now opened up listings even more – with new links to off-site games, all of which can be played in a web-browser, and/or downloaded as an app.

So far we have added listings for Choice of Games, Tin Man Games and Failbetter Games, with more to come.

We’re adding listings manually at the moment, so if you have a link you’d like to add, email alex@textadventures.co.uk with a description, cover art and category. The only rules are that the game has to be a text-based story game of some description, and it needs to be easily playable – by which we don’t mean that the game itself should be easy, just that it should be playable directly within a web browser, or at least available from an App Store.

Calendar

We’ve also added an events calendar. The idea is to list any events that are of general interest to the world of interactive fiction, digital storytelling, and anything related. This includes conferences, meetups, competitions, performances… basically, if we think it’s interesting, and it relates to the world of stories, interactivity and technology in some way, then that’s the kind of thing we want to add to the calendar.

So, take a look, and send us an email if you know of anything we should add.

Now accepting all kinds of web-based text adventure games

We’re now accepting a bigger range of submissions at textadventures.co.uk.

What does this mean? It means that all web-based text adventure games are now accepted!

Why do this? We want to make it easy for people to discover and play text adventure games without having to download any software. And for game authors, we want to make it easy for you to find an audience for your work.

So what can you now upload?

In addition to games developed with our Quest platform, you can also now upload:

  • self-contained .html game files – like those created by Twine
  • ZIP files containing a folder of .html, .css, .js, etc – like those created by Inform when you use the “Release along with an interpreter” option. (We even extract and display cover art!)
  • any other kind of text-based game that runs in a browser. Just upload a single .html file, or a zipped folder.

All uploads get checked by a moderator – so anything this is not a text-based game will be deleted. Categories work the same as before – you can select a category when uploading, but your game will not appear in that category until it has been checked. Work-in-progress, incomplete, test, tutorial exercise games etc. will be put in the Sandpit category.

We hope you enjoy the new flexibility. This feature has just gone live (you can submit games via this link), so please let me know if you encounter any problems uploading – you can email me at alex@textadventures.co.uk.

The new textadventures.co.uk

Meet the new textadventures.co.uk

New website

I have completely redeveloped the website from scratch. I’ve kept the design fairly minimal – the idea is to let the games stand out, make it easy to browse them, and make the site more accessible to smartphone and tablet devices. The large game tiles make the most of games with cover art, and the more easily browsable and tappable category badges hopefully make different kinds of games more discoverable.

The site uses a responsive layout, which means it adjusts depending on the width of your browser. There is no separate mobile version of the site – instead, the content is adjusted so it looks great whether you’re browsing from a phone, tablet or larger laptop/desktop screen.

A few other changes and new features:

  • You may notice the ranking of games has changed. This is because we’re now using a Bayesian ranking instead of a simple average. What this means is that the ranking should now be more accurate – a game with just a couple of 5 star reviews no longer goes straight to the top of the list, as the number of reviews is also now taken into account.
  • There are now multiple ways of signing in. In addition to Facebook, you can now log in with a Google or Microsoft account, and you can attach multiple sign-on methods to the same account.
  • A new “Activity” view in your “Create” area shows the latest reviews and comments for all of your games in one place.
  • You can now delete games from the online editor, as long as you’ve not published them.
  • You can now download your game code from the online editor, so you can switch to using the offline desktop version – or just keep your own backup of your game.

Note that for the first time, usernames must be unique on the site. In the case of username clashes, you’ll find a number has been added to the end of your name – if you want to change your username then just let me know.

Hopefully all bookmarks and links should still work and redirect where appropriate – but please let me know if you spot anything that’s broken.

The new site should be visible for most people now, but if you get a “Back soon” message, you may have to wait a little longer for the DNS change to propagate to you.

This is just the beginning for improvements to the site – the new site architecture will make it much easier to implement some rather nice features I’m planning, so stay tuned!

textadventures.co.uk migration – scheduled downtime on 20th April

The new-look textadventures.co.uk website is launching soon! I’m just putting the finishing touches together and doing some more testing, and the site should be ready to launch on Saturday 20th April.

In addition to a new look and feel, the entire back-end has been rewritten as well. I’m moving away from a hacked together collection of PHP scripts and WordPress, and to a new site built on .NET and hosted on the Azure cloud platform.

There are a number of things I’ve wanted to add for a while now, but the old site architecture made it difficult for me to change things. On the new website it will be much easier for me to implement new functionality – so watch this space for announcements! There are already a number of nice little changes on the new site to look forward to, and I’ll write a blog post about these soon.

The need to migrate data from the old site to the new site means there will be some downtime – hopefully only a few hours. The migration of user accounts takes a while, so I’ll be doing those first while keeping the site online. The currently planned migration timetable is:

Friday 19th April, 12.00 British Time (11.00 UTC/GMT, 07.00 EST) : New user account sign-up disabled – site remains online and existing users can log in and use the site as normal.

Saturday 20th April, 10.00 British Time (09.00 UTC/GMT, 05.00 EST): Site offline for data migration. This should hopefully be completed within a few hours, and then the new site will be available. You will then be able to create new user accounts and use all site functionality.

During the migration, the blog and forums will continue to be available, and you’ll still be able to download the Windows desktop version of Quest via this direct link: http://files.textadventures.co.uk/quest540.exe

Any questions or concerns then please let me know – alex@textadventures.co.uk.

3 Improvements to Publishing Games

I’ve just finished three improvements to how games are published on textadventures.co.uk:

Publishing from the web version of Quest

You can now publish games from the web version of Quest. From your game list, you can use the “Publish” link that appears next to your game. From the Editor itself, select “game” and hit the “Publish” button that appears in the top right of the screen.

After publishing your game, you can carry on editing it. Changes will not appear publicly until you re-publish.

Publishing from the desktop version of Quest

The process for uploading a game has been improved. The first step is to upload your file – after that, the game name, description and category you’ve specified in the Editor will be automatically extracted, so there’s no need to enter this information again on the upload form.

Unlisted games

You can now publish a game without making it fully public – handy if you simply wanted to try out your game online, or maybe to share a game with just a few friends. Simply select “Unlisted”, and your game won’t appear when browsing the site – only people who know the link will be able to see it (so it works in a similar way to unlisted videos on YouTube).

When logged in, you can see your unlisted games by clicking onto your profile. You can edit your game details to toggle it between public and unlisted at any time, so this may be useful if you want to have a few people beta test your game before releasing it more widely

Combining this with the new “publish” feature in the web editor means that, whether you’re using Mac, Linux, Windows, iPad or Chromebook, you can go through the entire game-making process in your browser:

  • create a game from scratch and edit it
  • publish it as “unlisted” to get a few of your friends to beta test it
  • carry on working on the game, publishing updates when you’re ready
  • when you’re finished, switch it to public and share with the world.

So you can now throw away your desktop PC (presuming you weren’t using it for anything other than making text adventures).

Easier logins at textadventures.co.uk

You can now log in to textadventures.co.uk using your Facebook account, and there’s also (finally) a “Remember me” option if you’re logging in to the site directly.

Until recently, you only needed a login for submitting games or comments, but now that you can save your progress while playing online, and even create games, it made sense to make logging in as easy as possible.

Nobody likes having to come up with and remember passwords, or go through the hassle of setting up accounts and waiting for activation emails. The new Facebook login eliminates all of that – it will create an account on the website for you and log you in with one click.

It doesn’t ask for any permissions – just basic information, which is essentially just your name and Facebook ID.

(Note that if you already have an account on the site, logging in with Facebook will create a separate new account – if there is demand for it, I’ll add a feature letting you link a Facebook account to an existing login)

Any questions or problems please let me know!